Part 6 out of 10
harbour entrance, and, letting the tiller swing about, squatted
down and busied himself in loosening the plug. With that out she
would fill very quickly, and every lighter carried a little iron
ballast--enough to make her go down when full of water. When he
stood up again the noisy wash about the Hermosa sounded far away,
almost inaudible; and already he could make out the shape of land
about the harbour entrance. This was a desperate affair, and he
was a good swimmer. A mile was nothing to him, and he knew of an
easy place for landing just below the earthworks of the old
abandoned fort. It occurred to him with a peculiar fascination
that this fort was a good place in which to sleep the day through
after so many sleepless nights.
With one blow of the tiller he unshipped for the purpose, he
knocked the plug out, but did not take the trouble to lower the
sail. He felt the water welling up heavily about his legs before
he leaped on to the taffrail. There, upright and motionless, in
his shirt and trousers only, he stood waiting. When he had felt
her settle he sprang far away with a mighty splash.
At once he turned his head. The gloomy, clouded dawn from behind
the mountains showed him on the smooth waters the upper corner of
the sail, a dark wet triangle of canvas waving slightly to and
fro. He saw it vanish, as if jerked under, and then struck out
for the shore.
DIRECTLY the cargo boat had slipped away from the wharf and got
lost in the darkness of the harbour the Europeans of Sulaco
separated, to prepare for the coming of the Monterist regime,
which was approaching Sulaco from the mountains, as well as from
This bit of manual work in loading the silver was their last
concerted action. It ended the three days of danger, during
which, according to the newspaper press of Europe, their energy
had preserved the town from the calamities of popular disorder.
At the shore end of the jetty, Captain Mitchell said good-night
and turned back. His intention was to walk the planks of the
wharf till the steamer from Esmeralda turned up. The engineers of
the railway staff, collecting their Basque and Italian workmen,
marched them away to the railway yards, leaving the Custom House,
so well defended on the first day of the riot, standing open to
the four winds of heaven. Their men had conducted themselves
bravely and faithfully during the famous "three days" of Sulaco.
In a great part this faithfulness and that courage had been
exercised in self-defence rather than in the cause of those
material interests to which Charles Gould had pinned his faith.
Amongst the cries of the mob not the least loud had been the cry
of death to foreigners. It was, indeed, a lucky circumstance for
Sulaco that the relations of those imported workmen with the
people of the country had been uniformly bad from the first.
Doctor Monygham, going to the door of Viola's kitchen, observed
this retreat marking the end of the foreign interference, this
withdrawal of the army of material progress from the field of
Algarrobe torches carried on the outskirts of the moving body
sent their penetrating aroma into his nostrils. Their light,
sweeping along the front of the house, made the letters of the
inscription, "Albergo d'ltalia Una," leap out black from end to
end of the long wall. His eyes blinked in the clear blaze.
Several young men, mostly fair and tall, shepherding this mob of
dark bronzed heads, surmounted by the glint of slanting rifle
barrels, nodded to him familiarly as they went by. The doctor was
a well-known character. Some of them wondered what he was doing
there. Then, on the flank of their workmen they tramped on,
following the line of rails.
"Withdrawing your people from the harbour?" said the doctor,
addressing himself to the chief engineer of the railway, who had
accompanied Charles Gould so far on his way to the town, walking
by the side of the horse, with his hand on the saddle-bow. They
had stopped just outside the open door to let the workmen cross
"As quick as I can. We are not a political faction," answered the
engineer, meaningly. "And we are not going to give our new rulers
a handle against the railway. You approve me, Gould?"
"Absolutely," said Charles Gould's impassive voice, high up and
outside the dim parallelogram of light falling on the road
through the open door.
With Sotillo expected from one side, and Pedro Montero from the
other, the engineer-in-chief's only anxiety now was to avoid a
collision with either. Sulaco, for him, was a railway station, a
terminus, workshops, a great accumulation of stores. As against
the mob the railway defended its property, but politically the
railway was neutral. He was a brave man; and in that spirit of
neutrality he had carried proposals of truce to the
self-appointed chiefs of the popular party, the deputies Fuentes
and Gamacho. Bullets were still flying about when he had crossed
the Plaza on that mission, waving above his head a white napkin
belonging to the table linen of the Amarilla Club.
He was rather proud of this exploit; and reflecting that the
doctor, busy all day with the wounded in the patio of the Casa
Gould, had not had time to hear the news, he began a succinct
narrative. He had communicated to them the intelligence from the
Construction Camp as to Pedro Montero. The brother of the
victorious general, he had assured them, could be expected at
Sulaco at any time now. This news (as he anticipated), when
shouted out of the window by Senor Gamacho, induced a rush of the
mob along the Campo Road towards Rincon. The two deputies also,
after shaking hands with him effusively, mounted and galloped off
to meet the great man. "I have misled them a little as to the
time," the chief engineer confessed. "However hard he rides, he
can scarcely get here before the morning. But my object is
attained. I've secured several hours' peace for the losing
party. But I did not tell them anything about Sotillo, for fear
they would take it into their heads to try to get hold of the
harbour again, either to oppose him or welcome him--there's no
saying which. There was Gould's silver, on which rests the
remnant of our hopes. Decoud's retreat had to be thought of, too.
I think the railway has done pretty well by its friends without
compromising itself hopelessly. Now the parties must be left to
"Costaguana for the Costaguaneros," interjected the doctor,
sardonically. "It is a fine country, and they have raised a fine
crop of hates, vengeance, murder, and rapine--those sons of the
"Well, I am one of them," Charles Gould's voice sounded, calmly,
"and I must be going on to see to my own crop of trouble. My wife
has driven straight on, doctor?"
"Yes. All was quiet on this side. Mrs. Gould has taken the two
girls with her."
Charles Gould rode on, and the engineer-in-chief followed the
"That man is calmness personified," he said, appreciatively,
dropping on a bench, and stretching his well-shaped legs in
cycling stockings nearly across the doorway. "He must be
extremely sure of himself."
"If that's all he is sure of, then he is sure of nothing," said
the doctor. He had perched himself again on the end of the table.
He nursed his cheek in the palm of one hand, while the other
sustained the elbow. "It is the last thing a man ought to be sure
of." The candle, half-consumed and burning dimly with a long
wick, lighted up from below his inclined face, whose expression
affected by the drawn-in cicatrices in the cheeks, had something
vaguely unnatural, an exaggerated remorseful bitterness. As he
sat there he had the air of meditating upon sinister things. The
engineer-in-chief gazed at him for a time before he protested.
"I really don't see that. For me there seems to be nothing else.
He was a wise man, but he could not quite conceal his contempt
for that sort of paradox; in fact. Dr. Monygham was not liked by
the Europeans of Sulaco. His outward aspect of an outcast, which
he preserved even in Mrs. Gould's drawing-room, provoked
unfavourable criticism. There could be no doubt of his
intelligence; and as he had lived for over twenty years in the
country, the pessimism of his outlook could not be altogether
ignored. But instinctively, in self-defence of their activities
and hopes, his hearers put it to the account of some hidden
imperfection in the man's character. It was known that many years
before, when quite young, he had been made by Guzman Bento chief
medical officer of the army. Not one of the Europeans then in the
service of Costaguana had been so much liked and trusted by the
fierce old Dictator.
Afterwards his story was not so clear. It lost itself amongst the
innumerable tales of conspiracies and plots against the tyrant as
a stream is lost in an arid belt of sandy country before it
emerges, diminished and troubled, perhaps, on the other side. The
doctor made no secret of it that he had lived for years in the
wildest parts of the Republic, wandering with almost unknown
Indian tribes in the great forests of the far interior where the
great rivers have their sources. But it was mere aimless
wandering; he had written nothing, collected nothing, brought
nothing for science out of the twilight of the forests, which
seemed to cling to his battered personality limping about Sulaco,
where it had drifted in casually, only to get stranded on the
shores of the sea.
It was also known that he had lived in a state of destitution
till the arrival of the Goulds from Europe. Don Carlos and Dona
Emilia had taken up the mad English doctor, when it became
apparent that for all his savage independence he could be tamed
by kindness. Perhaps it was only hunger that had tamed him. In
years gone by he had certainly been acquainted with Charles
Gould's father in Sta. Marta; and now, no matter what were the
dark passages of his history, as the medical officer of the San
Tome mine he became a recognized personality. He was recognized,
but not unreservedly accepted. So much defiant eccentricity and
such an outspoken scorn for mankind seemed to point to mere
recklessness of judgment, the bravado of guilt. Besides, since
he had become again of some account, vague whispers had been
heard that years ago, when fallen into disgrace and thrown into
prison by Guzman Bento at the time of the so-called Great
Conspiracy, he had betrayed some of his best friends amongst the
conspirators. Nobody pretended to believe that whisper; the whole
story of the Great Conspiracy was hopelessly involved and
obscure; it is admitted in Costaguana that there never had been a
conspiracy except in the diseased imagination of the Tyrant; and,
therefore, nothing and no one to betray; though the most
distinguished Costaguaneros had been imprisoned and executed upon
that accusation. The procedure had dragged on for years,
decimating the better class like a pestilence. The mere
expression of sorrow for the fate of executed kinsmen had been
punished with death. Don Jose Avellanos was perhaps the only one
living who knew the whole story of those unspeakable cruelties.
He had suffered from them himself, and he, with a shrug of the
shoulders and a nervous, jerky gesture of the arm, was wont to
put away from him, as it were, every allusion to it. But whatever
the reason, Dr. Monygham, a personage in the administration of
the Gould Concession, treated with reverent awe by the miners,
and indulged in his peculiarities by Mrs. Gould, remained
somehow outside the pale.
It was not from any liking for the doctor that the
engineer-in-chief had lingered in the inn upon the plain. He
liked old Viola much better. He had come to look upon the Albergo
d'ltalia Una as a dependence of the railway. Many of his
subordinates had their quarters there. Mrs. Gould's interest in
the family conferred upon it a sort of distinction. The
engineer-in-chief, with an army of workers under his orders,
appreciated the moral influence of the old Garibaldino upon his
countrymen. His austere, old-world Republicanism had a severe,
soldier-like standard of faithfulness and duty, as if the world
were a battlefield where men had to fight for the sake of
universal love and brotherhood, instead of a more or less large
share of booty.
"Poor old chap!" he said, after he had heard the doctor's account
of Teresa. "He'll never be able to keep the place going by
himself. I shall be sorry."
"He's quite alone up there," grunted Doctor Monygham, with a toss
of his heavy head towards the narrow staircase. "Every living
soul has cleared out, and Mrs. Gould took the girls away just
now. It might not be over-safe for them out here before very
long. Of course, as a doctor I can do nothing more here; but she
has asked me to stay with old Viola, and as I have no horse to
get back to the mine, where I ought to be, I made no difficulty
to stay. They can do without me in the town."
"I have a good mind to remain with you, doctor, till we see
whether anything happens to-night at the harbour," declared the
engineer-in-chief. "He must not be molested by Sotillo's
soldiery, who may push on as far as this at once. Sotillo used to
be very cordial to me at the Goulds' and at the club. How that
man'll ever dare to look any of his friends here in the face I
"He'll no doubt begin by shooting some of them to get over the
first awkwardness," said the doctor. "Nothing in this country
serves better your military man who has changed sides than a few
summary executions." He spoke with a gloomy positiveness that
left no room for protest. The engineer-in-chief did not attempt
any. He simply nodded several times regretfully, then said--
"I think we shall be able to mount you in the morning, doctor.
Our peons have recovered some of our stampeded horses. By riding
hard and taking a wide circuit by Los Hatos and along the edge of
the forest, clear of Rincon altogether, you may hope to reach the
San Tome bridge without being interfered with. The mine is just
now, to my mind, the safest place for anybody at all compromised.
I only wish the railway was as difficult to touch."
"Am I compromised?" Doctor Monygham brought out slowly after a
"The whole Gould Concession is compromised. It could not have
remained for ever outside the political life of the country--if
those convulsions may be called life. The thing is--can it be
touched? The moment was bound to come when neutrality would
become impossible, and Charles Gould understood this well. I
believe he is prepared for every extremity. A man of his sort has
never contemplated remaining indefinitely at the mercy of
ignorance and corruption. It was like being a prisoner in a
cavern of banditti with the price of your ransom in your pocket,
and buying your life from day to day. Your mere safety, not your
liberty, mind, doctor. I know what I am talking about. The image
at which you shrug your shoulders is perfectly correct,
especially if you conceive such a prisoner endowed with the power
of replenishing his pocket by means as remote from the faculties
of his captors as if they were magic. You must have understood
that as well as I do, doctor. He was in the position of the
goose with the golden eggs. I broached this matter to him as far
back as Sir John's visit here. The prisoner of stupid and greedy
banditti is always at the mercy of the first imbecile ruffian,
who may blow out his brains in a fit of temper or for some
prospect of an immediate big haul. The tale of killing the goose
with the golden eggs has not been evolved for nothing out of the
wisdom of mankind. It is a story that will never grow old. That
is why Charles Gould in his deep, dumb way has countenanced the
Ribierist Mandate, the first public act that promised him safety
on other than venal grounds. Ribierism has failed, as everything
merely rational fails in this country. But Gould remains logical
in wishing to save this big lot of silver. Decoud's plan of a
counter-revolution may be practicable or not, it may have a
chance, or it may not have a chance. With all my experience of
this revolutionary continent, I can hardly yet look at their
methods seriously. Decoud has been reading to us his draft of a
proclamation, and talking very well for two hours about his plan
of action. He had arguments which should have appeared solid
enough if we, members of old, stable political and national
organizations, were not startled by the mere idea of a new State
evolved like this out of the head of a scoffing young man fleeing
for his life, with a proclamation in his pocket, to a rough,
jeering, half-bred swashbuckler, who in this part of the world is
called a general. It sounds like a comic fairy tale--and behold,
it may come off; because it is true to the very spirit of the
"Is the silver gone off, then?" asked the doctor, moodily.
The chief engineer pulled out his watch. "By Captain Mitchell's
reckoning--and he ought to know--it has been gone long enough
now to be some three or four miles outside the harbour; and, as
Mitchell says, Nostromo is the sort of seaman to make the best of
his opportunities." Here the doctor grunted so heavily that the
other changed his tone.
"You have a poor opinion of that move, doctor? But why? Charles
Gould has got to play his game out, though he is not the man to
formulate his conduct even to himself, perhaps, let alone to
others. It may be that the game has been partly suggested to him
by Holroyd; but it accords with his character, too; and that is
why it has been so successful. Haven't they come to calling him
'El Rey de Sulaco' in Sta. Marta? A nickname may be the best
record of a success. That's what I call putting the face of a
joke upon the body of a truth. My dear sir, when I first arrived
in Sta. Marta I was struck by the way all those journalists,
demagogues, members of Congress, and all those generals and
judges cringed before a sleepy-eyed advocate without practice
simply because he was the plenipotentiary of the Gould
Concession. Sir John when he came out was impressed, too."
"A new State, with that plump dandy, Decoud, for the first
President," mused Dr. Monygham, nursing his cheek and swinging
his legs all the time.
"Upon my word, and why not?" the chief engineer retorted in an
unexpectedly earnest and confidential voice. It was as if
something subtle in the air of Costaguana had inoculated him with
the local faith in "pronunciamientos." All at once he began to
talk, like an expert revolutionist, of the instrument ready to
hand in the intact army at Cayta, which could be brought back in
a few days to Sulaco if only Decoud managed to make his way at
once down the coast. For the military chief there was Barrios,
who had nothing but a bullet to expect from Montero, his former
professional rival and bitter enemy. Barrios's concurrence was
assured. As to his army, it had nothing to expect from Montero
either; not even a month's pay. From that point of view the
existence of the treasure was of enormous importance. The mere
knowledge that it had been saved from the Monterists would be a
strong inducement for the Cayta troops to embrace the cause of
the new State.
The doctor turned round and contemplated his companion for some
"This Decoud, I see, is a persuasive young beggar," he remarked
at last. "And pray is it for this, then, that Charles Gould has
let the whole lot of ingots go out to sea in charge of that
"Charles Gould," said the engineer-in-chief, "has said no more
about his motive than usual. You know, he doesn't talk. But we
all here know his motive, and he has only one--the safety of the
San Tome mine with the preservation of the Gould Concession in
the spirit of his compact with Holroyd. Holroyd is another
uncommon man. They understand each other's imaginative side. One
is thirty, the other nearly sixty, and they have been made for
each other. To be a millionaire, and such a millionaire as
Holroyd, is like being eternally young. The audacity of youth
reckons upon what it fancies an unlimited time at its disposal;
but a millionaire has unlimited means in his hand--which is
better. One's time on earth is an uncertain quantity, but about
the long reach of millions there is no doubt. The introduction
of a pure form of Christianity into this continent is a dream for
a youthful enthusiast, and I have been trying to explain to you
why Holroyd at fifty-eight is like a man on the threshold of
life, and better, too. He's not a missionary, but the San Tome
mine holds just that for him. I assure you, in sober truth, that
he could not manage to keep this out of a strictly business
conference upon the finances of Costaguana he had with Sir John a
couple of years ago. Sir John mentioned it with amazement in a
letter he wrote to me here, from San Francisco, when on his way
home. Upon my word, doctor, things seem to be worth nothing by
what they are in themselves. I begin to believe that the only
solid thing about them is the spiritual value which everyone
discovers in his own form of activity----"
"Bah!" interrupted the doctor, without stopping for an instant
the idle swinging movement of his legs. "Self-flattery. Food for
that vanity which makes the world go round. Meantime, what do you
think is going to happen to the treasure floating about the gulf
with the great Capataz and the great politician?"
"Why are you uneasy about it, doctor?"
"I uneasy! And what the devil is it to me? I put no spiritual
value into my desires, or my opinions, or my actions. They have
not enough vastness to give me room for self-flattery. Look, for
instance, I should certainly have liked to ease the last moments
of that poor woman. And I can't. It's impossible. Have you met
the impossible face to face--or have you, the Napoleon of
railways, no such word in your dictionary?"
"Is she bound to have a very bad time of it?" asked the chief
engineer, with humane concern.
Slow, heavy footsteps moved across the planks above the heavy
hard wood beams of the kitchen. Then down the narrow opening of
the staircase made in the thickness of the wall, and narrow
enough to be defended by one man against twenty enemies, came the
murmur of two voices, one faint and broken, the other deep and
gentle answering it, and in its graver tone covering the weaker
The two men remained still and silent till the murmurs ceased,
then the doctor shrugged his shoulders and muttered--
"Yes, she's bound to. And I could do nothing if I went up now."
A long period of silence above and below ensued.
"I fancy," began the engineer, in a subdued voice, "that you
mistrust Captain Mitchell's Capataz."
"Mistrust him!" muttered the doctor through his teeth. "I believe
him capable of anything--even of the most absurd fidelity. I am
the last person he spoke to before he left the wharf, you know.
The poor woman up there wanted to see him, and I let him go up to
her. The dying must not be contradicted, you know. She seemed
then fairly calm and resigned, but the scoundrel in those ten
minutes or so has done or said something which seems to have
driven her into despair. You know," went on the doctor,
hesitatingly, "women are so very unaccountable in every position,
and at all times of life, that I thought sometimes she was in a
way, don't you see? in love with him--the Capataz. The rascal has
his own charm indubitably, or he would not have made the conquest
of all the populace of the town. No, no, I am not absurd. I may
have given a wrong name to some strong sentiment for him on her
part, to an unreasonable and simple attitude a woman is apt to
take up emotionally towards a man. She used to abuse him to me
frequently, which, of course, is not inconsistent with my idea.
Not at all. It looked to me as if she were always thinking of
him. He was something important in her life. You know, I have
seen a lot of those people. Whenever I came down from the mine
Mrs. Gould used to ask me to keep my eye on them. She likes
Italians; she has lived a long time in Italy, I believe, and she
took a special fancy to that old Garibaldino. A remarkable chap
enough. A rugged and dreamy character, living in the
republicanism of his young days as if in a cloud. He has
encouraged much of the Capataz's confounded nonsense--the
high-strung, exalted old beggar!"
"What sort of nonsense?" wondered the chief engineer. "I found
the Capataz always a very shrewd and sensible fellow, absolutely
fearless, and remarkably useful. A perfect handy man. Sir John
was greatly impressed by his resourcefulness and attention when
he made that overland journey from Sta. Marta. Later on, as you
might have heard, he rendered us a service by disclosing to the
then chief of police the presence in the town of some
professional thieves, who came from a distance to wreck and rob
our monthly pay train. He has certainly organized the lighterage
service of the harbour for the O.S.N. Company with great ability.
He knows how to make himself obeyed, foreigner though he is. It
is true that the Cargadores are strangers here, too, for the most
"His prestige is his fortune," muttered the doctor, sourly.
"The man has proved his trustworthiness up to the hilt on
innumerable occasions and in all sorts of ways," argued the
engineer. "When this question of the silver arose, Captain
Mitchell naturally was very warmly of the opinion that his
Capataz was the only man fit for the trust. As a sailor, of
course, I suppose so. But as a man, don't you know, Gould,
Decoud, and myself judged that it didn't matter in the least who
went. Any boatman would have done just as well. Pray, what could
a thief do with such a lot of ingots? If he ran off with them he
would have in the end to land somewhere, and how could he conceal
his cargo from the knowledge of the people ashore? We dismissed
that consideration from our minds. Moreover, Decoud was going.
There have been occasions when the Capataz has been more
"He took a slightly different view," the doctor said. "I heard
him declare in this very room that it would be the most desperate
affair of his life. He made a sort of verbal will here in my
hearing, appointing old Viola his executor; and, by Jove! do you
know, he--he's not grown rich by his fidelity to you good people
of the railway and the harbour. I suppose he obtains some--how
do you say that?--some spiritual value for his labours, or else I
don't know why the devil he should be faithful to you, Gould,
Mitchell, or anybody else. He knows this country well. He knows,
for instance, that Gamacho, the Deputy from Javira, has been
nothing else but a 'tramposo' of the commonest sort, a petty
pedlar of the Campo, till he managed to get enough goods on
credit from Anzani to open a little store in the wilds, and got
himself elected by the drunken mozos that hang about the
Estancias and the poorest sort of rancheros who were in his debt.
And Gamacho, who to-morrow will be probably one of our high
officials, is a stranger, too--an Isleno. He might have been a
Cargador on the O. S. N. wharf had he not (the posadero of Rincon
is ready to swear it) murdered a pedlar in the woods and stolen
his pack to begin life on. And do you think that Gamacho, then,
would have ever become a hero with the democracy of this place,
like our Capataz? Of course not. He isn't half the man. No;
decidedly, I think that Nostromo is a fool."
The doctor's talk was distasteful to the builder of railways. "It
is impossible to argue that point," he said, philosophically.
"Each man has his gifts. You should have heard Gamacho haranguing
his friends in the street. He has a howling voice, and he
shouted like mad, lifting his clenched fist right above his head,
and throwing his body half out of the window. At every pause the
rabble below yelled, 'Down with the Oligarchs! Viva la Libertad!'
Fuentes inside looked extremely miserable. You know, he is the
brother of Jorge Fuentes, who has been Minister of the Interior
for six months or so, some few years back. Of course, he has no
conscience; but he is a man of birth and education--at one time
the director of the Customs of Cayta. That idiot-brute Gamacho
fastened himself upon him with his following of the lowest
rabble. His sickly fear of that ruffian was the most rejoicing
He got up and went to the door to look out towards the harbour.
"All quiet," he said; "I wonder if Sotillo really means to turn
CAPTAIN MITCHELL, pacing the wharf, was asking himself the same
question. There was always the doubt whether the warning of the
Esmeralda telegraphist--a fragmentary and interrupted
message--had been properly understood. However, the good man had
made up his mind not to go to bed till daylight, if even then. He
imagined himself to have rendered an enormous service to Charles
Gould. When he thought of the saved silver he rubbed his hands
together with satisfaction. In his simple way he was proud at
being a party to this extremely clever expedient. It was he who
had given it a practical shape by suggesting the possibility of
intercepting at sea the north-bound steamer. And it was
advantageous to his Company, too, which would have lost a
valuable freight if the treasure had been left ashore to be
confiscated. The pleasure of disappointing the Monterists was
also very great. Authoritative by temperament and the long habit
of command, Captain Mitchell was no democrat. He even went so
far as to profess a contempt for parliamentarism itself. "His
Excellency Don Vincente Ribiera," he used to say, "whom I and
that fellow of mine, Nostromo, had the honour, sir, and the
pleasure of saving from a cruel death, deferred too much to his
Congress. It was a mistake--a distinct mistake, sir."
The guileless old seaman superintending the O.S.N. service
imagined that the last three days had exhausted every startling
surprise the political life of Costaguana could offer. He used to
confess afterwards that the events which followed surpassed his
imagination. To begin with, Sulaco (because of the seizure of the
cables and the disorganization of the steam service) remained for
a whole fortnight cut off from the rest of the world like a
"One would not have believed it possible; but so it was, sir. A
The account of the extraordinary things that happened during that
time, and the powerful emotions he experienced, acquired a comic
impressiveness from the pompous manner of his personal narrative.
He opened it always by assuring his hearer that he was "in the
thick of things from first to last." Then he would begin by
describing the getting away of the silver, and his natural
anxiety lest "his fellow" in charge of the lighter should make
some mistake. Apart from the loss of so much precious metal, the
life of Senor Martin Decoud, an agreeable, wealthy, and
well-informed young gentleman, would have been jeopardized
through his falling into the hands of his political enemies.
Captain Mitchell also admitted that in his solitary vigil on the
wharf he had felt a certain measure of concern for the future of
the whole country.
"A feeling, sir," he explained, "perfectly comprehensible in a
man properly grateful for the many kindnesses received from the
best families of merchants and other native gentlemen of
independent means, who, barely saved by us from the excesses of
the mob, seemed, to my mind's eye, destined to become the prey in
person and fortune of the native soldiery, which, as is well
known, behave with regrettable barbarity to the inhabitants
during their civil commotions. And then, sir, there were the
Goulds, for both of whom, man and wife, I could not but entertain
the warmest feelings deserved by their hospitality and kindness.
I felt, too, the dangers of the gentlemen of the Amarilla Club,
who had made me honorary member, and had treated me with uniform
regard and civility, both in my capacity of Consular Agent and as
Superintendent of an important Steam Service. Miss Antonia
Avellanos, the most beautiful and accomplished young lady whom it
had ever been my privilege to speak to, was not a little in my
mind, I confess. How the interests of my Company would be
affected by the impending change of officials claimed a large
share of my attention, too. In short, sir, I was extremely
anxious and very tired, as you may suppose, by the exciting and
memorable events in which I had taken my little part. The
Company's building containing my residence was within five
minutes' walk, with the attraction of some supper and of my
hammock (I always take my nightly rest in a hammock, as the most
suitable to the climate); but somehow, sir, though evidently I
could do nothing for any one by remaining about, I could not tear
myself away from that wharf, where the fatigue made me stumble
painfully at times. The night was excessively dark--the darkest
I remember in my life; so that I began to think that the arrival
of the transport from Esmeralda could not possibly take place
before daylight, owing to the difficulty of navigating the gulf.
The mosquitoes bit like fury. We have been infested here with
mosquitoes before the late improvements; a peculiar harbour
brand, sir, renowned for its ferocity. They were like a cloud
about my head, and I shouldn't wonder that but for their attacks
I would have dozed off as I walked up and down, and got a heavy
fall. I kept on smoking cigar after cigar, more to protect myself
from being eaten up alive than from any real relish for the weed.
Then, sir, when perhaps for the twentieth time I was approaching
my watch to the lighted end in order to see the time, and
observing with surprise that it wanted yet ten minutes to
midnight, I heard the splash of a ship's propeller--an
unmistakable sound to a sailor's ear on such a calm night. It was
faint indeed, because they were advancing with precaution and
dead slow, both on account of the darkness and from their desire
of not revealing too soon their presence: a very unnecessary
care, because, I verily believe, in all the enormous extent of
this harbour I was the only living soul about. Even the usual
staff of watchmen and others had been absent from their posts for
several nights owing to the disturbances. I stood stock still,
after dropping and stamping out my cigar--a circumstance highly
agreeable, I should think, to the mosquitoes, if I may judge from
the state of my face next morning. But that was a trifling
inconvenience in comparison with the brutal proceedings I became
victim of on the part of Sotillo. Something utterly
inconceivable, sir; more like the proceedings of a maniac than
the action of a sane man, however lost to all sense of honour and
decency. But Sotillo was furious at the failure of his thievish
In this Captain Mitchell was right. Sotillo was indeed
infuriated. Captain Mitchell, however, had not been arrested at
once; a vivid curiosity induced him to remain on the wharf (which
is nearly four hundred feet long) to see, or rather hear, the
whole process of disembarkation. Concealed by the railway truck
used for the silver, which had been run back afterwards to the
shore end of the jetty, Captain Mitchell saw the small detachment
thrown forward, pass by, taking different directions upon the
plain. Meantime, the troops were being landed and formed into a
column, whose head crept up gradually so close to him that he
made it out, barring nearly the whole width of the wharf, only a
very few yards from him. Then the low, shuffling, murmuring,
clinking sounds ceased, and the whole mass remained for about an
hour motionless and silent, awaiting the return of the scouts. On
land nothing was to be heard except the deep baying of the
mastiffs at the railway yards, answered by the faint barking of
the curs infesting the outer limits of the town. A detached knot
of dark shapes stood in front of the head of the column.
Presently the picket at the end of the wharf began to challenge
in undertones single figures approaching from the plain. Those
messengers sent back from the scouting parties flung to their
comrades brief sentences and passed on rapidly, becoming lost in
the great motionless mass, to make their report to the Staff. It
occurred to Captain Mitchell that his position could become
disagreeable and perhaps dangerous, when suddenly, at the head of
the jetty, there was a shout of command, a bugle call, followed
by a stir and a rattling of arms, and a murmuring noise that ran
right up the column. Near by a loud voice directed hurriedly,
"Push that railway car out of the way!" At the rush of bare feet
to execute the order Captain Mitchell skipped back a pace or two;
the car, suddenly impelled by many hands, flew away from him
along the rails, and before he knew what had happened he found
himself surrounded and seized by his arms and the collar of his
"We have caught a man hiding here, mi teniente!" cried one of his
"Hold him on one side till the rearguard comes along," answered
the voice. The whole column streamed past Captain Mitchell at a
run, the thundering noise of their feet dying away suddenly on
the shore. His captors held him tightly, disregarding his
declaration that he was an Englishman and his loud demands to be
taken at once before their commanding officer. Finally he lapsed
into dignified silence. With a hollow rumble of wheels on the
planks a couple of field guns, dragged by hand, rolled by. Then,
after a small body of men had marched past escorting four or five
figures which walked in advance, with a jingle of steel
scabbards, he felt a tug at his arms, and was ordered to come
along. During the passage from the wharf to the Custom House it
is to be feared that Captain Mitchell was subjected to certain
indignities at the hands of the soldiers--such as jerks, thumps
on the neck, forcible application of the butt of a rifle to the
small of his back. Their ideas of speed were not in accord with
his notion of his dignity. He became flustered, flushed, and
helpless. It was as if the world were coming to an end.
The long building was surrounded by troops, which were already
piling arms by companies and preparing to pass the night lying on
the ground in their ponchos with their sacks under their heads.
Corporals moved with swinging lanterns posting sentries all round
the walls wherever there was a door or an opening. Sotillo was
taking his measures to protect his conquest as if it had indeed
contained the treasure. His desire to make his fortune at one
audacious stroke of genius had overmastered his reasoning
faculties. He would not believe in the possibility of failure;
the mere hint of such a thing made his brain reel with rage.
Every circumstance pointing to it appeared incredible. The
statement of Hirsch, which was so absolutely fatal to his hopes,
could by no means be admitted. It is true, too, that Hirsch's
story had been told so incoherently, with such excessive signs of
distraction, that it really looked improbable. It was extremely
difficult, as the saying is, to make head or tail of it. On the
bridge of the steamer, directly after his rescue, Sotillo and his
officers, in their impatience and excitement, would not give the
wretched man time to collect such few wits as remained to him. He
ought to have been quieted, soothed, and reassured, whereas he
had been roughly handled, cuffed, shaken, and addressed in
menacing tones. His struggles, his wriggles, his attempts to get
down on his knees, followed by the most violent efforts to break
away, as if he meant incontinently to jump overboard, his shrieks
and shrinkings and cowering wild glances had filled them first
with amazement, then with a doubt of his genuineness, as men are
wont to suspect the sincerity of every great passion. His
Spanish, too, became so mixed up with German that the better half
of his statements remained incomprehensible. He tried to
propitiate them by calling them hochwohlgeboren herren, which in
itself sounded suspicious. When admonished sternly not to trifle
he repeated his entreaties and protestations of loyalty and
innocence again in German, obstinately, because he was not aware
in what language he was speaking. His identity, of course, was
perfectly known as an inhabitant of Esmeralda, but this made the
matter no clearer. As he kept on forgetting Decoud's name, mixing
him up with several other people he had seen in the Casa Gould,
it looked as if they all had been in the lighter together; and
for a moment Sotillo thought that he had drowned every prominent
Ribierist of Sulaco. The improbability of such a thing threw a
doubt upon the whole statement. Hirsch was either mad or playing
a part--pretending fear and distraction on the spur of the
moment to cover the truth. Sotillo's rapacity, excited to the
highest pitch by the prospect of an immense booty, could believe
in nothing adverse. This Jew might have been very much frightened
by the accident, but he knew where the silver was concealed, and
had invented this story, with his Jewish cunning, to put him
entirely off the track as to what had been done.
Sotillo had taken up his quarters on the upper floor in a vast
apartment with heavy black beams. But there was no ceiling, and
the eye lost itself in the darkness under the high pitch of the
roof. The thick shutters stood open. On a long table could be
seen a large inkstand, some stumpy, inky quill pens, and two
square wooden boxes, each holding half a hundred-weight of sand.
Sheets of grey coarse official paper bestrewed the floor. It must
have been a room occupied by some higher official of the Customs,
because a large leathern armchair stood behind the table, with
other high-backed chairs scattered about. A net hammock was swung
under one of the beams--for the official's afternoon siesta, no
doubt. A couple of candles stuck into tall iron candlesticks gave
a dim reddish light. The colonel's hat, sword, and revolver lay
between them, and a couple of his more trusty officers lounged
gloomily against the table. The colonel threw himself into the
armchair, and a big negro with a sergeant's stripes on his ragged
sleeve, kneeling down, pulled off his boots. Sotillo's ebony
moustache contrasted violently with the livid colouring of his
cheeks. His eyes were sombre and as if sunk very far into his
head. He seemed exhausted by his perplexities, languid with
disappointment; but when the sentry on the landing thrust his
head in to announce the arrival of a prisoner, he revived at
"Let him be brought in," he shouted, fiercely.
The door flew open, and Captain Mitchell, bareheaded, his
waistcoat open, the bow of his tie under his ear, was hustled
into the room.
Sotillo recognized him at once. He could not have hoped for a
more precious capture; here was a man who could tell him, if he
chose, everything he wished to know--and directly the problem of
how best to make him talk to the point presented itself to his
mind. The resentment of a foreign nation had no terrors for
Sotillo. The might of the whole armed Europe would not have
protected Captain Mitchell from insults and ill-usage, so well as
the quick reflection of Sotillo that this was an Englishman who
would most likely turn obstinate under bad treatment, and become
quite unmanageable. At all events, the colonel smoothed the scowl
on his brow.
"What! The excellent Senor Mitchell!" he cried, in affected
dismay. The pretended anger of his swift advance and of his
shout, "Release the caballero at once," was so effective that the
astounded soldiers positively sprang away from their prisoner.
Thus suddenly deprived of forcible support, Captain Mitchell
reeled as though about to fall. Sotillo took him familiarly under
the arm, led him to a chair, waved his hand at the room. "Go out,
all of you," he commanded.
When they had been left alone he stood looking down, irresolute
and silent, watching till Captain Mitchell had recovered his
power of speech.
Here in his very grasp was one of the men concerned in the
removal of the silver. Sotillo's temperament was of that sort
that he experienced an ardent desire to beat him; just as
formerly when negotiating with difficulty a loan from the
cautious Anzani, his fingers always itched to take the shopkeeper
by the throat. As to Captain Mitchell, the suddenness,
unexpectedness, and general inconceivableness of this experience
had confused his thoughts. Moreover, he was physically out of
"I've been knocked down three times between this and the wharf,"
he gasped out at last. "Somebody shall be made to pay for this."
He had certainly stumbled more than once, and had been dragged
along for some distance before he could regain his stride. With
his recovered breath his indignation seemed to madden him. He
jumped up, crimson, all his white hair bristling, his eyes
glaring vengefully, and shook violently the flaps of his ruined
waistcoat before the disconcerted Sotillo. "Look! Those uniformed
thieves of yours downstairs have robbed me of my watch."
The old sailor's aspect was very threatening. Sotillo saw himself
cut off from the table on which his sabre and revolver were
"I demand restitution and apologies," Mitchell thundered at him,
quite beside himself. "From you! Yes, from you!"
For the space of a second or so the colonel stood with a
perfectly stony expression of face; then, as Captain Mitchell
flung out an arm towards the table as if to snatch up the
revolver, Sotillo, with a yell of alarm, bounded to the door and
was gone in a flash, slamming it after him. Surprise calmed
Captain Mitchell's fury. Behind the closed door Sotillo shouted
on the landing, and there was a great tumult of feet on the
"Disarm him! Bind him!" the colonel could be heard vociferating.
Captain Mitchell had just the time to glance once at the windows,
with three perpendicular bars of iron each and some twenty feet
from the ground, as he well knew, before the door flew open and
the rush upon him took place. In an incredibly short time he
found himself bound with many turns of a hide rope to a
high-backed chair, so that his head alone remained free. Not till
then did Sotillo, who had been leaning in the doorway trembling
visibly, venture again within. The soldiers, picking up from the
floor the rifles they had dropped to grapple with the prisoner,
filed out of the room. The officers remained leaning on their
swords and looking on.
"The watch! the watch!" raved the colonel, pacing to and fro like
a tiger in a cage. "Give me that man's watch."
It was true, that when searched for arms in the hall downstairs,
before being taken into Sotillo's presence, Captain Mitchell had
been relieved of his watch and chain; but at the colonel's
clamour it was produced quickly enough, a corporal bringing it
up, carried carefully in the palms of his joined hands. Sotillo
snatched it, and pushed the clenched fist from which it dangled
close to Captain Mitchell's face.
"Now then! You arrogant Englishman! You dare to call the soldiers
of the army thieves! Behold your watch."
He flourished his fist as if aiming blows at the prisoner's nose.
Captain Mitchell, helpless as a swathed infant, looked anxiously
at the sixty-guinea gold half-chronometer, presented to him years
ago by a Committee of Underwriters for saving a ship from total
loss by fire. Sotillo, too, seemed to perceive its valuable
appearance. He became silent suddenly, stepped aside to the
table, and began a careful examination in the light of the
candles. He had never seen anything so fine. His officers closed
in and craned their necks behind his back.
He became so interested that for an instant he forgot his
precious prisoner. There is always something childish in the
rapacity of the passionate, clear-minded, Southern races, wanting
in the misty idealism of the Northerners, who at the smallest
encouragement dream of nothing less than the conquest of the
earth. Sotillo was fond of jewels, gold trinkets, of personal
adornment. After a moment he turned about, and with a commanding
gesture made all his officers fall back. He laid down the watch
on the table, then, negligently, pushed his hat over it.
"Ha!" he began, going up very close to the chair. "You dare call
my valiant soldiers of the Esmeralda regiment, thieves. You dare!
What impudence! You foreigners come here to rob our country of
its wealth. You never have enough! Your audacity knows no
He looked towards the officers, amongst whom there was an
approving murmur. The older major was moved to declare--
"Si, mi colonel. They are all traitors."
"I shall say nothing," continued Sotillo, fixing the motionless
and powerless Mitchell with an angry but uneasy stare. "I shall
say nothing of your treacherous attempt to get possession of my
revolver to shoot me while I was trying to treat you with
consideration you did not deserve. You have forfeited your life.
Your only hope is in my clemency."
He watched for the effect of his words, but there was no obvious
sign of fear on Captain Mitchell's face. His white hair was full
of dust, which covered also the rest of his helpless person. As
if he had heard nothing, he twitched an eyebrow to get rid of a
bit of straw which hung amongst the hairs.
Sotillo advanced one leg and put his arms akimbo. "It is you,
Mitchell," he said, emphatically, "who are the thief, not my
soldiers!" He pointed at his prisoner a forefinger with a long,
almond-shaped nail. "Where is the silver of the San Tome mine? I
ask you, Mitchell, where is the silver that was deposited in this
Custom House? Answer me that! You stole it. You were a party to
stealing it. It was stolen from the Government. Aha! you think I
do not know what I say; but I am up to your foreign tricks. It is
gone, the silver! No? Gone in one of your lanchas, you miserable
man! How dared you?"
This time he produced his effect. "How on earth could Sotillo
know that?" thought Mitchell. His head, the only part of his body
that could move, betrayed his surprise by a sudden jerk.
"Ha! you tremble," Sotillo shouted, suddenly. "It is a
conspiracy. It is a crime against the State. Did you not know
that the silver belongs to the Republic till the Government
claims are satisfied? Where is it? Where have you hidden it, you
At this question Captain Mitchell's sinking spirits revived. In
whatever incomprehensible manner Sotillo had already got his
information about the lighter, he had not captured it. That was
clear. In his outraged heart, Captain Mitchell had resolved that
nothing would induce him to say a word while he remained so
disgracefully bound, but his desire to help the escape of the
silver made him depart from this resolution. His wits were very
much at work. He detected in Sotillo a certain air of doubt, of
"That man," he said to himself, "is not certain of what he
advances." For all his pomposity in social intercourse, Captain
Mitchell could meet the realities of life in a resolute and ready
spirit. Now he had got over the first shock of the abominable
treatment he was cool and collected enough. The immense contempt
he felt for Sotillo steadied him, and he said oracularly, "No
doubt it is well concealed by this time."
Sotillo, too, had time to cool down. "Muy bien, Mitchell," he
said in a cold and threatening manner. "But can you produce the
Government receipt for the royalty and the Custom House permit of
embarkation, hey? Can you? No. Then the silver has been removed
illegally, and the guilty shall be made to suffer, unless it is
produced within five days from this." He gave orders for the
prisoner to be unbound and locked up in one of the smaller rooms
downstairs. He walked about the room, moody and silent, till
Captain Mitchell, with each of his arms held by a couple of men,
stood up, shook himself, and stamped his feet.
"How did you like to be tied up, Mitchell?" he asked, derisively.
"It is the most incredible, abominable use of power!" Captain
Mitchell declared in a loud voice. "And whatever your purpose,
you shall gain nothing from it, I can promise you."
The tall colonel, livid, with his coal-black ringlets and
moustache, crouched, as it were, to look into the eyes of the
short, thick-set, red-faced prisoner with rumpled white hair.
"That we shall see. You shall know my power a little better when
I tie you up to a potalon outside in the sun for a whole day." He
drew himself up haughtily, and made a sign for Captain Mitchell
to be led away.
"What about my watch?" cried Captain Mitchell, hanging back from
the efforts of the men pulling him towards the door.
Sotillo turned to his officers. "No! But only listen to this
picaro, caballeros," he pronounced with affected scorn, and was
answered by a chorus of derisive laughter. "He demands his
watch!" . . . He ran up again to Captain Mitchell, for the desire
to relieve his feelings by inflicting blows and pain upon this
Englishman was very strong within him. "Your watch! You are a
prisoner in war time, Mitchell! In war time! You have no rights
and no property! Caramba! The very breath in your body belongs to
me. Remember that."
"Bosh!" said Captain Mitchell, concealing a disagreeable
Down below, in a great hall, with the earthen floor and with a
tall mound thrown up by white ants in a corner, the soldiers had
kindled a small fire with broken chairs and tables near the
arched gateway, through which the faint murmur of the harbour
waters on the beach could be heard. While Captain Mitchell was
being led down the staircase, an officer passed him, running up
to report to Sotillo the capture of more prisoners. A lot of
smoke hung about in the vast gloomy place, the fire crackled,
and, as if through a haze, Captain Mitchell made out, surrounded
by short soldiers with fixed bayonets, the heads of three tall
prisoners--the doctor, the engineer-in-chief, and the white
leonine mane of old Viola, who stood half-turned away from the
others with his chin on his breast and his arms crossed.
Mitchell's astonishment knew no bounds. He cried out; the other
two exclaimed also. But he hurried on, diagonally, across the
big cavern-like hall. Lots of thoughts, surmises, hints of
caution, and so on, crowded his head to distraction.
"Is he actually keeping you?" shouted the chief engineer, whose
single eyeglass glittered in the firelight.
An officer from the top of the stairs was shouting urgently,
"Bring them all up--all three."
In the clamour of voices and the rattle of arms, Captain Mitchell
made himself heard imperfectly: "By heavens! the fellow has
stolen my watch."
The engineer-in-chief on the staircase resisted the pressure long
enough to shout, "What? What did you say?"
"My chronometer!" Captain Mitchell yelled violently at the very
moment of being thrust head foremost through a small door into a
sort of cell, perfectly black, and so narrow that he fetched up
against the opposite wall. The door had been instantly slammed.
He knew where they had put him. This was the strong room of the
Custom House, whence the silver had been removed only a few hours
earlier. It was almost as narrow as a corridor, with a small
square aperture, barred by a heavy grating, at the distant end.
Captain Mitchell staggered for a few steps, then sat down on the
earthen floor with his back to the wall. Nothing, not even a
gleam of light from anywhere, interfered with Captain Mitchell's
meditation. He did some hard but not very extensive thinking. It
was not of a gloomy cast. The old sailor, with all his small
weaknesses and absurdities, was constitutionally incapable of
entertaining for any length of time a fear of his personal
safety. It was not so much firmness of soul as the lack of a
certain kind of imagination--the kind whose undue development
caused intense suffering to Senor Hirsch; that sort of
imagination which adds the blind terror of bodily suffering and
of death, envisaged as an accident to the body alone,
strictly--to all the other apprehensions on which the sense of
one's existence is based. Unfortunately, Captain Mitchell had not
much penetration of any kind; characteristic, illuminating
trifles of expression, action, or movement, escaped him
completely. He was too pompously and innocently aware of his own
existence to observe that of others. For instance, he could not
believe that Sotillo had been really afraid of him, and this
simply because it would never have entered into his head to shoot
any one except in the most pressing case of self-defence. Anybody
could see he was not a murdering kind of man, he reflected quite
gravely. Then why this preposterous and insulting charge? he
asked himself. But his thoughts mainly clung around the
astounding and unanswerable question: How the devil the fellow
got to know that the silver had gone off in the lighter? It was
obvious that he had not captured it. And, obviously, he could not
have captured it! In this last conclusion Captain Mitchell was
misled by the assumption drawn from his observation of the
weather during his long vigil on the wharf. He thought that there
had been much more wind than usual that night in the gulf;
whereas, as a matter of fact, the reverse was the case.
"How in the name of all that's marvellous did that confounded
fellow get wind of the affair?" was the first question he asked
directly after the bang, clatter, and flash of the open door
(which was closed again almost before he could lift his dropped
head) informed him that he had a companion of captivity. Dr.
Monygham's voice stopped muttering curses in English and Spanish.
"Is that you, Mitchell?" he made answer, surlily. "I struck my
forehead against this confounded wall with enough force to fell
an ox. Where are you?"
Captain Mitchell, accustomed to the darkness, could make out the
doctor stretching out his hands blindly.
"I am sitting here on the floor. Don't fall over my legs,"
Captain Mitchell's voice announced with great dignity of tone.
The doctor, entreated not to walk about in the dark, sank down to
the ground, too. The two prisoners of Sotillo, with their heads
nearly touching, began to exchange confidences.
"Yes," the doctor related in a low tone to Captain Mitchell's
vehement curiosity, "we have been nabbed in old Viola's place. It
seems that one of their pickets, commanded by an officer, pushed
as far as the town gate. They had orders not to enter, but to
bring along every soul they could find on the plain. We had been
talking in there with the door open, and no doubt they saw the
glimmer of our light. They must have been making their approaches
for some time. The engineer laid himself on a bench in a recess
by the fire-place, and I went upstairs to have a look. I hadn't
heard any sound from there for a long time. Old Viola, as soon as
he saw me come up, lifted his arm for silence. I stole in on
tiptoe. By Jove, his wife was lying down and had gone to sleep.
The woman had actually dropped off to sleep! 'Senor Doctor,'
Viola whispers to me, 'it looks as if her oppression was going to
get better.' 'Yes,' I said, very much surprised; 'your wife is a
wonderful woman, Giorgio.' Just then a shot was fired in the
kitchen, which made us jump and cower as if at a thunder-clap.
It seems that the party of soldiers had stolen quite close up,
and one of them had crept up to the door. He looked in, thought
there was no one there, and, holding his rifle ready, entered
quietly. The chief told me that he had just closed his eyes for a
moment. When he opened them, he saw the man already in the
middle of the room peering into the dark corners. The chief was
so startled that, without thinking, he made one leap from the
recess right out in front of the fireplace. The soldier, no less
startled, up with his rifle and pulls the trigger, deafening and
singeing the engineer, but in his flurry missing him completely.
But, look what happens! At the noise of the report the sleeping
woman sat up, as if moved by a spring, with a shriek, 'The
children, Gian' Battista! Save the children!' I have it in my
ears now. It was the truest cry of distress I ever heard. I stood
as if paralyzed, but the old husband ran across to the bedside,
stretching out his hands. She clung to them! I could see her eyes
go glazed; the old fellow lowered her down on the pillows and
then looked round at me. She was dead! All this took less than
five minutes, and then I ran down to see what was the matter. It
was no use thinking of any resistance. Nothing we two could say
availed with the officer, so I volunteered to go up with a couple
of soldiers and fetch down old Viola. He was sitting at the foot
of the bed, looking at his wife's face, and did not seem to hear
what I said; but after I had pulled the sheet over her head, he
got up and followed us downstairs quietly, in a sort of
thoughtful way. They marched us off along the road, leaving the
door open and the candle burning. The chief engineer strode on
without a word, but I looked back once or twice at the feeble
gleam. After we had gone some considerable distance, the
Garibaldino, who was walking by my side, suddenly said, 'I have
buried many men on battlefields on this continent. The priests
talk of consecrated ground! Bah! All the earth made by God is
holy; but the sea, which knows nothing of kings and priests and
tyrants, is the holiest of all. Doctor! I should like to bury her
in the sea. No mummeries, candles, incense, no holy water mumbled
over by priests. The spirit of liberty is upon the waters.' . . .
Amazing old man. He was saying all this in an undertone as if
talking to himself."
"Yes, yes," interrupted Captain Mitchell, impatiently. "Poor old
chap! But have you any idea how that ruffian Sotillo obtained his
information? He did not get hold of any of our Cargadores who
helped with the truck, did he? But no, it is impossible! These
were picked men we've had in our boats for these five years, and
I paid them myself specially for the job, with instructions to
keep out of the way for twenty-four hours at least. I saw them
with my own eyes march on with the Italians to the railway yards.
The chief promised to give them rations as long as they wanted to
"Well," said the doctor, slowly, "I can tell you that you may say
good-bye for ever to your best lighter, and to the Capataz of
At this, Captain Mitchell scrambled up to his feet in the excess
of his excitement. The doctor, without giving him time to
exclaim, stated briefly the part played by Hirsch during the
Captain Mitchell was overcome. "Drowned!" he muttered, in a
bewildered and appalled whisper. "Drowned!" Afterwards he kept
still, apparently listening, but too absorbed in the news of the
catastrophe to follow the doctor's narrative with attention.
The doctor had taken up an attitude of perfect ignorance, till at
last Sotillo was induced to have Hirsch brought in to repeat the
whole story, which was got out of him again with the greatest
difficulty, because every moment he would break out into
lamentations. At last, Hirsch was led away, looking more dead
than alive, and shut up in one of the upstairs rooms to be close
at hand. Then the doctor, keeping up his character of a man not
admitted to the inner councils of the San Tome Administration,
remarked that the story sounded incredible. Of course, he said,
he couldn't tell what had been the action of the Europeans, as he
had been exclusively occupied with his own work in looking after
the wounded, and also in attending Don Jose Avellanos. He had
succeeded in assuming so well a tone of impartial indifference,
that Sotillo seemed to be completely deceived. Till then a show
of regular inquiry had been kept up; one of the officers sitting
at the table wrote down the questions and the answers, the
others, lounging about the room, listened attentively, puffing at
their long cigars and keeping their eyes on the doctor. But at
that point Sotillo ordered everybody out.
DIRECTLY they were alone, the colonel's severe official manner
changed. He rose and approached the doctor. His eyes shone with
rapacity and hope; he became confidential. "The silver might
have been indeed put on board the lighter, but it was not
conceivable that it should have been taken out to sea." The
doctor, watching every word, nodded slightly, smoking with
apparent relish the cigar which Sotillo had offered him as a sign
of his friendly intentions. The doctor's manner of cold
detachment from the rest of the Europeans led Sotillo on, till,
from conjecture to conjecture, he arrived at hinting that in his
opinion this was a putup job on the part of Charles Gould, in
order to get hold of that immense treasure all to himself. The
doctor, observant and self-possessed, muttered, "He is very
capable of that."
Here Captain Mitchell exclaimed with amazement, amusement, and
indignation, "You said that of Charles Gould!" Disgust, and even
some suspicion, crept into his tone, for to him, too, as to other
Europeans, there appeared to be something dubious about the
"What on earth made you say that to this watch-stealing
scoundrel?" he asked. "What's the object of an infernal lie of
that sort? That confounded pick-pocket was quite capable of
He snorted. For a time the doctor remained silent in the dark.
"Yes, that is exactly what I did say," he uttered at last, in a
tone which would have made it clear enough to a third party that
the pause was not of a reluctant but of a reflective character.
Captain Mitchell thought that he had never heard anything so
brazenly impudent in his life.
"Well, well!" he muttered to himself, but he had not the heart to
voice his thoughts. They were swept away by others full of
astonishment and regret. A heavy sense of discomfiture crushed
him: the loss of the silver, the death of Nostromo, which was
really quite a blow to his sensibilities, because he had become
attached to his Capataz as people get attached to their inferiors
from love of ease and almost unconscious gratitude. And when he
thought of Decoud being drowned, too, his sensibility was almost
overcome by this miserable end. What a heavy blow for that poor
young woman! Captain Mitchell did not belong to the species of
crabbed old bachelors; on the contrary, he liked to see young men
paying attentions to young women. It seemed to him a natural and
proper thing. Proper especially. As to sailors, it was
different; it was not their place to marry, he maintained, but it
was on moral grounds as a matter of self-denial, for, he
explained, life on board ship is not fit for a woman even at
best, and if you leave her on shore, first of all it is not fair,
and next she either suffers from it or doesn't care a bit, which,
in both cases, is bad. He couldn't have told what upset him
most--Charles Gould's immense material loss, the death of
Nostromo, which was a heavy loss to himself, or the idea of that
beautiful and accomplished young woman being plunged into
"Yes," the doctor, who had been apparently reflecting, began
again, "he believed me right enough. I thought he would have
hugged me. 'Si, si,' he said, 'he will write to that partner of
his, the rich Americano in San Francisco, that it is all lost.
Why not? There is enough to share with many people.'"
"But this is perfectly imbecile!" cried Captain Mitchell.
The doctor remarked that Sotillo was imbecile, and that his
imbecility was ingenious enough to lead him completely astray. He
had helped him only but a little way.
"I mentioned," the doctor said, "in a sort of casual way, that
treasure is generally buried in the earth rather than set afloat
upon the sea. At this my Sotillo slapped his forehead. 'Por Dios,
yes,' he said; 'they must have buried it on the shores of this
harbour somewhere before they sailed out.'"
"Heavens and earth!" muttered Captain Mitchell, "I should not
have believed that anybody could be ass enough--" He paused, then
went on mournfully: "But what's the good of all this? It would
have been a clever enough lie if the lighter had been still
afloat. It would have kept that inconceivable idiot perhaps from
sending out the steamer to cruise in the gulf. That was the
danger that worried me no end." Captain Mitchell sighed
"I had an object," the doctor pronounced, slowly.
"Had you?" muttered Captain Mitchell. "Well, that's lucky, or
else I would have thought that you went on fooling him for the
fun of the thing. And perhaps that was your object. Well, I must
say I personally wouldn't condescend to that sort of thing. It is
not to my taste. No, no. Blackening a friend's character is not
my idea of fun, if it were to fool the greatest blackguard on
Had it not been for Captain Mitchell's depression, caused by the
fatal news, his disgust of Dr. Monygham would have taken a more
outspoken shape; but he thought to himself that now it really did
not matter what that man, whom he had never liked, would say and
"I wonder," he grumbled, "why they have shut us up together, or
why Sotillo should have shut you up at all, since it seems to me
you have been fairly chummy up there?"
"Yes, I wonder," said the doctor grimly.
Captain Mitchell's heart was so heavy that he would have
preferred for the time being a complete solitude to the best of
company. But any company would have been preferable to the
doctor's, at whom he had always looked askance as a sort of
beachcomber of superior intelligence partly reclaimed from his
abased state. That feeling led him to ask--
"What has that ruffian done with the other two?"
"The chief engineer he would have let go in any case," said the
doctor. "He wouldn't like to have a quarrel with the railway upon
his hands. Not just yet, at any rate. I don't think, Captain
Mitchell, that you understand exactly what Sotillo's position
"I don't see why I should bother my head about it," snarled
"No," assented the doctor, with the same grim composure. "I
don't see why you should. It wouldn't help a single human being
in the world if you thought ever so hard upon any subject
"No," said Captain Mitchell, simply, and with evident depression.
"A man locked up in a confounded dark hole is not much use to
"As to old Viola," the doctor continued, as though he had not
heard, "Sotillo released him for the same reason he is presently
going to release you."
"Eh? What?" exclaimed Captain Mitchell, staring like an owl in
the darkness. "What is there in common between me and old Viola?
More likely because the old chap has no watch and chain for the
pickpocket to steal. And I tell you what, Dr. Monygham," he went
on with rising choler, "he will find it more difficult than he
thinks to get rid of me. He will burn his fingers over that job
yet, I can tell you. To begin with, I won't go without my watch,
and as to the rest--we shall see. I dare say it is no great
matter for you to be locked up. But Joe Mitchell is a different
kind of man, sir. I don't mean to submit tamely to insult and
robbery. I am a public character, sir."
And then Captain Mitchell became aware that the bars of the
opening had become visible, a black grating upon a square of
grey. The coming of the day silenced Captain Mitchell as if by
the reflection that now in all the future days he would be
deprived of the invaluable services of his Capataz. He leaned
against the wall with his arms folded on his breast, and the
doctor walked up and down the whole length of the place with his
peculiar hobbling gait, as if slinking about on damaged feet. At
the end furthest from the grating he would be lost altogether in
the darkness. Only the slight limping shuffle could be heard.
There was an air of moody detachment in that painful prowl kept
up without a pause. When the door of the prison was suddenly
flung open and his name shouted out he showed no surprise. He
swerved sharply in his walk, and passed out at once, as though
much depended upon his speed; but Captain Mitchell remained for
some time with his shoulders against the wall, quite undecided in
the bitterness of his spirit whether it wouldn't be better to
refuse to stir a limb in the way of protest. He had half a mind
to get himself carried out, but after the officer at the door had
shouted three or four times in tones of remonstrance and surprise
he condescended to walk out.
Sotillo's manner had changed. The colonel's off-hand civility was
slightly irresolute, as though he were in doubt if civility were
the proper course in this case. He observed Captain Mitchell
attentively before he spoke from the big armchair behind the
table in a condescending voice--
"I have concluded not to detain you, Senor Mitchell. I am of a
forgiving disposition. I make allowances. Let this be a lesson
to you, however."
The peculiar dawn of Sulaco, which seems to break far away to the
westward and creep back into the shade of the mountains, mingled
with the reddish light of the candles. Captain Mitchell, in sign
of contempt and indifference, let his eyes roam all over the
room, and he gave a hard stare to the doctor, perched already on
the casement of one of the windows, with his eyelids lowered,
careless and thoughtful--or perhaps ashamed.
Sotillo, ensconced in the vast armchair, remarked, "I should have
thought that the feelings of a caballero would have dictated to
you an appropriate reply."
He waited for it, but Captain Mitchell remaining mute, more from
extreme resentment than from reasoned intention, Sotillo
hesitated, glanced towards the doctor, who looked up and nodded,
then went on with a slight effort--
"Here, Senor Mitchell, is your watch. Learn how hasty and unjust
has been your judgment of my patriotic soldiers."
Lying back in his seat, he extended his arm over the table and
pushed the watch away slightly. Captain Mitchell walked up with
undisguised eagerness, put it to his ear, then slipped it into
his pocket coolly.
Sotillo seemed to overcome an immense reluctance. Again he
looked aside at the doctor, who stared at him unwinkingly.
But as Captain Mitchell was turning away, without as much as a
nod or a glance, he hastened to say--
"You may go and wait downstairs for the senor doctor, whom I am
going to liberate, too. You foreigners are insignificant, to my
He forced a slight, discordant laugh out of himself, while
Captain Mitchell, for the first time, looked at him with some
"The law shall take note later on of your transgressions,"
Sotillo hurried on. "But as for me, you can live free, unguarded,
unobserved. Do you hear, Senor Mitchell? You may depart to your
affairs. You are beneath my notice. My attention is claimed by
matters of the very highest importance."
Captain Mitchell was very nearly provoked to an answer. It
displeased him to be liberated insultingly; but want of sleep,
prolonged anxieties, a profound disappointment with the fatal
ending of the silver-saving business weighed upon his spirits. It
was as much as he could do to conceal his uneasiness, not about
himself perhaps, but about things in general. It occurred to him
distinctly that something underhand was going on. As he went out
he ignored the doctor pointedly.
"A brute!" said Sotillo, as the door shut.
Dr. Monygham slipped off the window-sill, and, thrusting his
hands into the pockets of the long, grey dust coat he was
wearing, made a few steps into the room.
Sotillo got up, too, and, putting himself in the way, examined
him from head to foot.
"So your countrymen do not confide in you very much, senor
doctor. They do not love you, eh? Why is that, I wonder?"
The doctor, lifting his head, answered by a long, lifeless stare
and the words, "Perhaps because I have lived too long in
Sotillo had a gleam of white teeth under the black moustache.
"Aha! But you love yourself," he said, encouragingly.
"If you leave them alone," the doctor said, looking with the same
lifeless stare at Sotillo's handsome face, "they will betray
themselves very soon. Meantime, I may try to make Don Carlos
"Ah! senor doctor," said Sotillo, wagging his head, "you are a
man of quick intelligence. We were made to understand each
other." He turned away. He could bear no longer that
expressionless and motionless stare, which seemed to have a sort
of impenetrable emptiness like the black depth of an abyss.
Even in a man utterly devoid of moral sense there remains an
appreciation of rascality which, being conventional, is perfectly
clear. Sotillo thought that Dr. Monygham, so different from all
Europeans, was ready to sell his countrymen and Charles Gould,
his employer, for some share of the San Tome silver. Sotillo did
not despise him for that. The colonel's want of moral sense was
of a profound and innocent character. It bordered upon stupidity,
moral stupidity. Nothing that served his ends could appear to him
really reprehensible. Nevertheless, he despised Dr. Monygham.
He had for him an immense and satisfactory contempt. He despised
him with all his heart because he did not mean to let the doctor
have any reward at all. He despised him, not as a man without
faith and honour, but as a fool. Dr. Monygham's insight into his
character had deceived Sotillo completely. Therefore he thought
the doctor a fool.
Since his arrival in Sulaco the colonel's ideas had undergone
He no longer wished for a political career in Montero's
administration. He had always doubted the safety of that course.
Since he had learned from the chief engineer that at daylight
most likely he would be confronted by Pedro Montero his
misgivings on that point had considerably increased. The
guerrillero brother of the general--the Pedrito of popular
speech--had a reputation of his own. He wasn't safe to deal with.
Sotillo had vaguely planned seizing not only the treasure but the
town itself, and then negotiating at leisure. But in the face of
facts learned from the chief engineer (who had frankly disclosed
to him the whole situation) his audacity, never of a very dashing
kind, had been replaced by a most cautious hesitation.
"An army--an army crossed the mountains under Pedrito already,"
he had repeated, unable to hide his consternation. "If it had not
been that I am given the news by a man of your position I would
never have believed it. Astonishing!"
"An armed force," corrected the engineer, suavely. His aim was
attained. It was to keep Sulaco clear of any armed occupation for
a few hours longer, to let those whom fear impelled leave the
town. In the general dismay there were families hopeful enough to
fly upon the road towards Los Hatos, which was left open by the
withdrawal of the armed rabble under Senores Fuentes and Gamacho,
to Rincon, with their enthusiastic welcome for Pedro Montero. It
was a hasty and risky exodus, and it was said that Hernandez,
occupying with his band the woods about Los Hatos, was receiving
the fugitives. That a good many people he knew were contemplating
such a flight had been well known to the chief engineer.
Father Corbelan's efforts in the cause of that most pious robber
had not been altogether fruitless. The political chief of Sulaco
had yielded at the last moment to the urgent entreaties of the
priest, had signed a provisional nomination appointing Hernandez
a general, and calling upon him officially in this new capacity
to preserve order in the town. The fact is that the political
chief, seeing the situation desperate, did not care what he
signed. It was the last official document he signed before he
left the palace of the Intendencia for the refuge of the O.S.N.
Company's office. But even had he meant his act to be effective
it was already too late. The riot which he feared and expected
broke out in less than an hour after Father Corbelan had left
him. Indeed, Father Corbelan, who had appointed a meeting with
Nostromo in the Dominican Convent, where he had his residence in
one of the cells, never managed to reach the place. From the
Intendencia he had gone straight on to the Avellanos's house to
tell his brother-in-law, and though he stayed there no more than
half an hour he had found himself cut off from his ascetic abode.
Nostromo, after waiting there for some time, watching uneasily
the increasing uproar in the street, had made his way to the
offices of the Porvenir, and stayed there till daylight, as
Decoud had mentioned in the letter to his sister. Thus the
Capataz, instead of riding towards the Los Hatos woods as bearer
of Hernandez's nomination, had remained in town to save the life
of the President Dictator, to assist in repressing the outbreak
of the mob, and at last to sail out with the silver of the mine.
But Father Corbelan, escaping to Hernandez, had the document in
his pocket, a piece of official writing turning a bandit into a
general in a memorable last official act of the Ribierist party,
whose watchwords were honesty, peace, and progress. Probably
neither the priest nor the bandit saw the irony of it. Father
Corbelan must have found messengers to send into the town, for
early on the second day of the disturbances there were rumours of
Hernandez being on the road to Los Hatos ready to receive those
who would put themselves under his protection. A strange-looking
horseman, elderly and audacious, had appeared in the town, riding
slowly while his eyes examined the fronts of the houses, as
though he had never seen such high buildings before. Before the
cathedral he had dismounted, and, kneeling in the middle of the
Plaza, his bridle over his arm and his hat lying in front of him
on the ground, had bowed his head, crossing himself and beating
his breast for some little time. Remounting his horse, with a
fearless but not unfriendly look round the little gathering
formed about his public devotions, he had asked for the Casa
Avellanos. A score of hands were extended in answer, with fingers
pointing up the Calle de la Constitucion.
The horseman had gone on with only a glance of casual curiosity
upwards to the windows of the Amarilla Club at the corner. His
stentorian voice shouted periodically in the empty street, "Which
is the Casa Avellanos?" till an answer came from the scared
porter, and he disappeared under the gate. The letter he was
bringing, written by Father Corbelan with a pencil by the
camp-fire of Hernandez, was addressed to Don Jose, of whose
critical state the priest was not aware. Antonia read it, and,
after consulting Charles Gould, sent it on for the information of
the gentlemen garrisoning the Amarilla Club. For herself, her
mind was made up; she would rejoin her uncle; she would entrust
the last day--the last hours perhaps--of her father's life to the
keeping of the bandit, whose existence was a protest against the
irresponsible tyranny of all parties alike, against the moral
darkness of the land. The gloom of Los Hatos woods was
preferable; a life of hardships in the train of a robber band
less debasing. Antonia embraced with all her soul her uncle's
obstinate defiance of misfortune. It was grounded in the belief
in the man whom she loved.
In his message the Vicar-General answered upon his head for
Hernandez's fidelity. As to his power, he pointed out that he had
remained unsubdued for so many years. In that letter Decoud's
idea of the new Occidental State (whose flourishing and stable
condition is a matter of common knowledge now) was for the first
time made public and used as an argument. Hernandez, ex-bandit
and the last general of Ribierist creation, was confident of
being able to hold the tract of country between the woods of Los
Hatos and the coast range till that devoted patriot, Don Martin
Decoud, could bring General Barrios back to Sulaco for the
reconquest of the town.
"Heaven itself wills it. Providence is on our side," wrote Father
Corbelan; there was no time to reflect upon or to controvert his
statement; and if the discussion started upon the reading of that
letter in the Amarilla Club was violent, it was also shortlived.
In the general bewilderment of the collapse some jumped at the
idea with joyful astonishment as upon the amazing discovery of a
new hope. Others became fascinated by the prospect of immediate
personal safety for their women and children. The majority caught
at it as a drowning man catches at a straw. Father Corbelan was
unexpectedly offering them a refuge from Pedrito Montero with his
llaneros allied to Senores Fuentes and Gamacho with their armed
All the latter part of the afternoon an animated discussion went
on in the big rooms of the Amarilla Club. Even those members
posted at the windows with rifles and carbines to guard the end
of the street in case of an offensive return of the populace
shouted their opinions and arguments over their shoulders. As
dusk fell Don Juste Lopez, inviting those caballeros who were of
his way of thinking to follow him, withdrew into the corredor,
where at a little table in the light of two candles he busied
himself in composing an address, or rather a solemn declaration
to be presented to Pedrito Montero by a deputation of such
members of Assembly as had elected to remain in town. His idea
was to propitiate him in order to save the form at least of
parliamentary institutions. Seated before a blank sheet of paper,
a goose-quill pen in his hand and surged upon from all sides, he
turned to the right and to the left, repeating with solemn
"Caballeros, a moment of silence! A moment of silence! We ought
to make it clear that we bow in all good faith to the
The utterance of that phrase seemed to give him a melancholy
satisfaction. The hubbub of voices round him was growing strained
and hoarse. In the sudden pauses the excited grimacing of the
faces would sink all at once into the stillness of profound
Meantime, the exodus had begun. Carretas full of ladies and
children rolled swaying across the Plaza, with men walking or
riding by their side; mounted parties followed on mules and
horses; the poorest were setting out on foot, men and women
carrying bundles, clasping babies in their arms, leading old
people, dragging along the bigger children. When Charles Gould,
after leaving the doctor and the engineer at the Casa Viola,
entered the town by the harbour gate, all those that had meant to
go were gone, and the others had barricaded themselves in their
houses. In the whole dark street there was only one spot of
flickering lights and moving figures, where the Senor
Administrador recognized his wife's carriage waiting at the door
of the Avellanos's house. He rode up, almost unnoticed, and
looked on without a word while some of his own servants came out
of the gate carrying Don Jose Avellanos, who, with closed eyes
and motionless features, appeared perfectly lifeless. His wife
and Antonia walked on each side of the improvised stretcher,
which was put at once into the carriage. The two women embraced;
while from the other side of the landau Father Corbelan's
emissary, with his ragged beard all streaked with grey, and high,
bronzed cheek-bones, stared, sitting upright in the saddle. Then
Antonia, dry-eyed, got in by the side of the stretcher, and,
after making the sign of the cross rapidly, lowered a thick veil
upon her face. The servants and the three or four neighbours who
had come to assist, stood back, uncovering their heads. On the
box, Ignacio, resigned now to driving all night (and to having
perhaps his throat cut before daylight) looked back surlily over
"Drive carefully," cried Mrs. Gould in a tremulous voice.
"Si, carefully; si nina," he mumbled, chewing his lips, his round
leathery cheeks quivering. And the landau rolled slowly out of
"I will see them as far as the ford," said Charles Gould to his
wife. She stood on the edge of the sidewalk with her hands
clasped lightly, and nodded to him as he followed after the
carriage. And now the windows of the Amarilla Club were dark. The
last spark of resistance had died out. Turning his head at the
corner, Charles Gould saw his wife crossing over to their own
gate in the lighted patch of the street. One of their neighbours,
a well-known merchant and landowner of the province, followed at
her elbow, talking with great gestures. As she passed in all the
lights went out in the street, which remained dark and empty from
end to end.
The houses of the vast Plaza were lost in the night. High up,
like a star, there was a small gleam in one of the towers of the
cathedral; and the equestrian statue gleamed pale against the
black trees of the Alameda, like a ghost of royalty haunting the
scenes of revolution. The rare prowlers they met ranged
themselves against the wall. Beyond the last houses the carriage
rolled noiselessly on the soft cushion of dust, and with a
greater obscurity a feeling of freshness seemed to fall from the
foliage of the trees bordering the country road. The emissary
from Hernandez's camp pushed his horse close to Charles Gould.
"Caballero," he said in an interested voice, "you are he whom
they call the King of Sulaco, the master of the mine? Is it not
"Yes, I am the master of the mine," answered Charles Gould.
The man cantered for a time in silence, then said, "I have a
brother, a sereno in your service in the San Tome valley. You
have proved yourself a just man. There has been no wrong done to
any one since you called upon the people to work in the
mountains. My brother says that no official of the Government, no
oppressor of the Campo, has been seen on your side of the stream.
Your own officials do not oppress the people in the gorge.
Doubtless they are afraid of your severity. You are a just man
and a powerful one," he added.
He spoke in an abrupt, independent tone, but evidently he was
communicative with a purpose. He told Charles Gould that he had
been a ranchero in one of the lower valleys, far south, a
neighbour of Hernandez in the old days, and godfather to his
eldest boy; one of those who joined him in his resistance to the
recruiting raid which was the beginning of all their misfortunes.
It was he that, when his compadre had been carried off, had
buried his wife and children, murdered by the soldiers.
"Si, senor," he muttered, hoarsely, "I and two or three others,
the lucky ones left at liberty, buried them all in one grave near
the ashes of their ranch, under the tree that had shaded its
It was to him, too, that Hernandez came after he had deserted,
three years afterwards. He had still his uniform on with the
sergeant's stripes on the sleeve, and the blood of his colonel
upon his hands and breast. Three troopers followed him, of those
who had started in pursuit but had ridden on for liberty. And he
told Charles Gould how he and a few friends, seeing those
soldiers, lay in ambush behind some rocks ready to pull the
trigger on them, when he recognized his compadre and jumped up
from cover, shouting his name, because he knew that Hernandez
could not have been coming back on an errand of injustice and
oppression. Those three soldiers, together with the party who lay
behind the rocks, had formed the nucleus of the famous band, and
he, the narrator, had been the favourite lieutenant of Hernandez
for many, many years. He mentioned proudly that the officials had
put a price upon his head, too; but it did not prevent it getting
sprinkled with grey upon his shoulders. And now he had lived long
enough to see his compadre made a general.
He had a burst of muffled laughter. "And now from robbers we have
become soldiers. But look, Caballero, at those who made us
soldiers and him a general! Look at these people!"
Ignacio shouted. The light of the carriage lamps, running along
the nopal hedges that crowned the bank on each side, flashed upon
the scared faces of people standing aside in the road, sunk deep,
like an English country lane, into the soft soil of the Campo.
They cowered; their eyes glistened very big for a second; and
then the light, running on, fell upon the half-denuded roots of a
big tree, on another stretch of nopal hedge, caught up another
bunch of faces glaring back apprehensively. Three women--of whom
one was carrying a child--and a couple of men in civilian
dress--one armed with a sabre and another with a gun--were
grouped about a donkey carrying two bundles tied up in blankets.
Further on Ignacio shouted again to pass a carreta, a long wooden
box on two high wheels, with the door at the back swinging open.
Some ladies in it must have recognized the white mules, because
they screamed out, "Is it you, Dona Emilia?"
At the turn of the road the glare of a big fire filled the short
stretch vaulted over by the branches meeting overhead. Near the
ford of a shallow stream a roadside rancho of woven rushes and a
roof of grass had been set on fire by accident, and the flames,
roaring viciously, lit up an open space blocked with horses,
mules, and a distracted, shouting crowd of people. When Ignacio
pulled up, several ladies on foot assailed the carriage, begging
Antonia for a seat. To their clamour she answered by pointing
silently to her father.
"I must leave you here," said Charles Gould, in the uproar. The
flames leaped up sky-high, and in the recoil from the scorching
heat across the road the stream of fugitives pressed against the
carriage. A middle-aged lady dressed in black silk, but with a
coarse manta over her head and a rough branch for a stick in her
hand, staggered against the front wheel. Two young girls,
frightened and silent, were clinging to her arms. Charles Gould
knew her very well.
"Misericordia! We are getting terribly bruised in this crowd!"
she exclaimed, smiling up courageously to him. "We have started
on foot. All our servants ran away yesterday to join the
democrats. We are going to put ourselves under the protection of
Father Corbelan, of your sainted uncle, Antonia. He has wrought a
miracle in the heart of a most merciless robber. A miracle!"
She raised her voice gradually up to a scream as she was borne
along by the pressure of people getting out of the way of some
carts coming up out of the ford at a gallop, with loud yells and
cracking of whips. Great masses of sparks mingled with black
smoke flew over the road; the bamboos of the walls detonated in
the fire with the sound of an irregular fusillade. And then the
bright blaze sank suddenly, leaving only a red dusk crowded with
aimless dark shadows drifting in contrary directions; the noise
of voices seemed to die away with the flame; and the tumult of
heads, arms, quarrelling, and imprecations passed on fleeing into
"I must leave you now," repeated Charles Gould to Antonia. She
turned her head slowly and uncovered her face. The emissary and
compadre of Hernandez spurred his horse close up.
"Has not the master of the mine any message to send to Hernandez,
the master of the Campo?"
The truth of the comparison struck Charles Gould heavily. In his
determined purpose he held the mine, and the indomitable bandit
held the Campo by the same precarious tenure. They were equals
before the lawlessness of the land. It was impossible to
disentangle one's activity from its debasing contacts. A
close-meshed net of crime and corruption lay upon the whole
country. An immense and weary discouragement sealed his lips for
"You are a just man," urged the emissary of Hernandez. "Look at
those people who made my compadre a general and have turned us
all into soldiers. Look at those oligarchs fleeing for life,
with only the clothes on their backs. My compadre does not think
of that, but our followers may be wondering greatly, and I would
speak for them to you. Listen, senor! For many months now the
Campo has been our own. We need ask no man for anything; but
soldiers must have their pay to live honestly when the wars are
over. It is believed that your soul is so just that a prayer from
you would cure the sickness of every beast, like the orison of
the upright judge. Let me have some words from your lips that
would act like a charm upon the doubts of our partida, where all
"Do you hear what he says?" Charles Gould said in English to
"Forgive us our misery!" she exclaimed, hurriedly. "It is your
character that is the inexhaustible treasure which may save us
all yet; your character, Carlos, not your wealth. I entreat you
to give this man your word that you will accept any arrangement
my uncle may make with their chief. One word. He will want no
On the site of the roadside hut there remained nothing but an
enormous heap of embers, throwing afar a darkening red glow, in
which Antonia's face appeared deeply flushed with excitement.
Charles Gould, with only a short hesitation, pronounced the
required pledge. He was like a man who had ventured on a
precipitous path with no room to turn, where the only chance of
safety is to press forward. At that moment he understood it
thoroughly as he looked down at Don Jose stretched out, hardly
breathing, by the side of the erect Antonia, vanquished in a
lifelong struggle with the powers of moral darkness, whose
stagnant depths breed monstrous crimes and monstrous illusions.
In a few words the emissary from Hernandez expressed his complete
satisfaction. Stoically Antonia lowered her veil, resisting the
longing to inquire about Decoud's escape. But Ignacio leered
morosely over his shoulder.
"Take a good look at the mules, mi amo," he grumbled. "You shall
never see them again!"
CHARLES GOULD turned towards the town. Before him the jagged
peaks of the Sierra came out all black in the clear dawn. Here
and there a muffled lepero whisked round the corner of a
grass-grown street before the ringing hoofs of his horse. Dogs
barked behind the walls of the gardens; and with the colourless
light the chill of the snows seemed to fall from the mountains
upon the disjointed pavements and the shuttered houses with
broken cornices and the plaster peeling in patches between the
flat pilasters of the fronts. The daybreak struggled with the
gloom under the arcades on the Plaza, with no signs of country
people disposing their goods for the day's market, piles of
fruit, bundles of vegetables ornamented with flowers, on low
benches under enormous mat umbrellas; with no cheery early
morning bustle of villagers, women, children, and loaded donkeys.
Only a few scattered knots of revolutionists stood in the vast
space, all looking one way from under their slouched hats for
some sign of news from Rincon. The largest of those groups
turned about like one man as Charles Gould passed, and shouted,
"Viva la libertad!" after him in a menacing tone.
Charles Gould rode on, and turned into the archway of his house.
In the patio littered with straw, a practicante, one of Dr.
Monygham's native assistants, sat on the ground with his back
against the rim of the fountain, fingering a guitar discreetly,
while two girls of the lower class, standing up before him,
shuffled their feet a little and waved their arms, humming a
popular dance tune.
Most of the wounded during the two days of rioting had been taken
away already by their friends and relations, but several figures
could be seen sitting up balancing their bandaged heads in time
to the music. Charles Gould dismounted. A sleepy mozo coming out
of the bakery door took hold of the horse's bridle; the
practicante endeavoured to conceal his guitar hastily; the girls,
unabashed, stepped back smiling; and Charles Gould, on his way to
the staircase, glanced into a dark corner of the patio at another
group, a mortally wounded Cargador with a woman kneeling by his
side; she mumbled prayers rapidly, trying at the same time to
force a piece of orange between the stiffening lips of the dying
The cruel futility of things stood unveiled in the levity and
sufferings of that incorrigible people; the cruel futility of
lives and of deaths thrown away in the vain endeavour to attain
an enduring solution of the problem. Unlike Decoud, Charles
Gould could not play lightly a part in a tragic farce. It was
tragic enough for him in all conscience, but he could see no
farcical element. He suffered too much under a conviction of
irremediable folly. He was too severely practical and too
idealistic to look upon its terrible humours with amusement, as
Martin Decoud, the imaginative materialist, was able to do in the
dry light of his scepticism. To him, as to all of us, the
compromises with his conscience appeared uglier than ever in the
light of failure. His taciturnity, assumed with a purpose, had
prevented him from tampering openly with his thoughts; but the
Gould Concession had insidiously corrupted his judgment. He
might have known, he said to himself, leaning over the balustrade
of the corredor, that Ribierism could never come to anything. The
mine had corrupted his judgment by making him sick of bribing and
intriguing merely to have his work left alone from day to day.
Like his father, he did not like to be robbed. It exasperated
him. He had persuaded himself that, apart from higher
considerations, the backing up of Don Jose's hopes of reform was
good business. He had gone forth into the senseless fray as his
poor uncle, whose sword hung on the wall of his study, had gone
forth--in the defence of the commonest decencies of organized
society. Only his weapon was the wealth of the mine, more
far-reaching and subtle than an honest blade of steel fitted into
a simple brass guard.
More dangerous to the wielder, too, this weapon of wealth,
double-edged with the cupidity and misery of mankind, steeped in
all the vices of self-indulgence as in a concoction of poisonous
roots, tainting the very cause for which it is drawn, always
ready to turn awkwardly in the hand. There was nothing for it now
but to go on using it. But he promised himself to see it
shattered into small bits before he let it be wrenched from his
After all, with his English parentage and English upbringing, he
perceived that he was an adventurer in Costaguana, the descendant
of adventurers enlisted in a foreign legion, of men who had
sought fortune in a revolutionary war, who had planned
revolutions, who had believed in revolutions. For all the
uprightness of his character, he had something of an adventurer's
easy morality which takes count of personal risk in the ethical
appraising of his action. He was prepared, if need be, to blow up
the whole San Tome mountain sky high out of the territory of the
Republic. This resolution expressed the tenacity of his
character, the remorse of that subtle conjugal infidelity through
which his wife was no longer the sole mistress of his thoughts,
something of his father's imaginative weakness, and something,
too, of the spirit of a buccaneer throwing a lighted match into
the magazine rather than surrender his ship.
Down below in the patio the wounded Cargador had breathed his
last. The woman cried out once, and her cry, unexpected and
shrill, made all the wounded sit up. The practicante scrambled to
his feet, and, guitar in hand, gazed steadily in her direction
with elevated eyebrows. The two girls--sitting now one on each
side of their wounded relative, with their knees drawn up and
long cigars between their lips--nodded at each other
Charles Gould, looking down over the balustrade, saw three men
dressed ceremoniously in black frock-coats with white shirts, and
wearing European round hats, enter the patio from the street. One
of them, head and shoulders taller than the two others, advanced
with marked gravity, leading the way. This was Don Juste Lopez,
accompanied by two of his friends, members of Assembly, coming to
call upon the Administrador of the San Tome mine at this early
hour. They saw him, too, waved their hands to him urgently,
walking up the stairs as if in procession.
Don Juste, astonishingly changed by having shaved off altogether
his damaged beard, had lost with it ninetenths of his outward
dignity. Even at that time of serious pre-occupation Charles
Gould could not help noting the revealed ineptitude in the aspect
of the man. His companions looked crestfallen and sleepy. One
kept on passing the tip of his tongue over his parched lips; the
other's eyes strayed dully over the tiled floor of the corredor,
while Don Juste, standing a little in advance, harangued the
Senor Administrador of the San Tome mine. It was his firm opinion
that forms had to be observed. A new governor is always visited
by deputations from the Cabildo, which is the Municipal Council,
from the Consulado, the commercial Board, and it was proper that
the Provincial Assembly should send a deputation, too, if only to
assert the existence of parliamentary institutions. Don Juste
proposed that Don Carlos Gould, as the most prominent citizen of
the province, should join the Assembly's deputation. His position
was exceptional, his personality known through the length and
breadth of the whole Republic. Official courtesies must not be
neglected, if they are gone through with a bleeding heart. The